In part 1 of this blog series, we discussed the importance of employee retention, and how the most common strategies for achieving this: one-off events or “lifestyle” improvements to the office environment, usually only last in the short-term. We also hinted at how the true secret to employee retention is ensuring high motivation levels in staff, which means meeting their inner drivers!
In this article, we’ll explore this concept in more depth and provide some specific examples of how you might get deeper commitment from your team, and even more rewarding that, create a genuinely motivating place to work.
As we outlined in the previous article, and indeed many articles on this site, there are nine motivators that inform human behaviour. We don’t have the space here to explain each of them in detail, but suffice to say two key things.
Firstly, we all have all nine motivators. Unlike psychometrics or personality profiles, motivation is not reductive. Each of us has all nine of these drivers but we prioritise some drivers over others…
Secondly, the drivers sit on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs one level above the level of “survival” or what scientists call “physiological needs”, aka food, water, shelter, the fundamental basics of human life.
Now, armed with this knowledge, we can proceed!
In the previous article I mentioned that to create an effective strategy for employee retention or sustained commitment you have to “touch on each of the nine motivators. In other words, you have to provide incentives that correlate to each of the nine drivers informing human behaviour.” This is because it is the only way of ensuring that your retention efforts are going to appeal to all of your staff. Most businesses tend to suffer from the myopia of either their industry or their leaders.
To give an example, Tech companies, given the nature of their work, tend to focus almost solely on the Expert motivator, the thirst for knowledge and learning, and sharing that knowledge with others. Therefore, all their reward strategies and incentives are built around this motivator. They offer big bonuses for the people with the hard skills. They recruit people with hard skills. And they reward employees by with further training and learning resources. However, whilst no doubt many people will go into the Tech industry because they are motivator by the Expert, Tech companies still need people, and therefore, HR departments. They still need to be able to network and collaborate. In other words, they still need the “soft skills” that the Expert tends to overlook.
Another example might be an organisational head who is a Builder motivator. The Builder is very competitive, sales-driven, and results orientated. They like to win, to make money, and to see their success manifested physically. This is great in many cases. One wants to have a leader who is driven, and many successful business leaders do have Builder in their profile, because the Builder is proactive and gets results.
However, as you have probably already gathered, the Builder has blindspots. A great leader must be aware of these blindspots otherwise they are going to assume that all their employees are like them, and punish those who are not. The reality is that as important as sales are, a business cannot live on sales alone! Teams must be managed, data has to be handled, especially in our modern age. Builders tend to be risk-takers, or at least more risk-friendly, but some roles—such as that of an accountant—are much better suited to someone who is more risk-averse.
When we begin to look at the full spectrum of the nine motivators, it gives us a much more balanced perspective, and helps us to see where our blindspots might lie (especially if we complete a Map and see our own profile).
So, without further ado, here are nine strategies for employee retention, each one focused on touching upon a different motivator…
1) COMMUNICATION OF ROLES (DEFENDER)
This might sound incredibly obvious, but it is surprising how many organisation get this wrong. We have all heard the term “scope creep”; the reality is that most employees feel that their roles are changing, but not for the better, not because of newly acquired responsibilities or skills, but simply because they are having more and more dumped upon them by upper management. When we have capable people, the temptation is to give them more to do, because we know it can be handled reliably, but we have to respect the remit of their job description. Make sure that every employee knows their job description intimately, and make sure when writing these job descriptions they are not filled with corporate waffle, but concrete examples of work expected. Then, hardest of all, stick to those definitions, until the time the employee is promoted or moves into another area of the business.
2) EXPRESS INTEREST IN YOUR EMPLOYEES (FRIEND)
Again, this is basic, but it is alarming how many companies show little to no interest at all in their employees as human beings. Many people find as much reward in the social aspect of work as the work itself, and this is evidenced by how difficult lockdown has been for many people. If you have Friend as your number one motivator, then you will get a serious buzz from being part of a living, breathing community. As a manager, you can make these Friend motivators feel extra special by just taking a few minutes of your time each day, or every few days, to ask them about their life outside of work. Get to know them a little better and who knows, you might discover something very surprising!
3) RECOGNISE TALENT (STAR)
Recognise talent. I would advise not doing this publicly unless you are absolutely certain the person you want to recognise is someone with Star in their top three motivators. However, it need not be public, merely sincere and praising. If someone is performing exceptionally well, take the time to let them know, face-to-face, how well they are doing. If they have a line manager, make sure the manager is there to hear the praise too.
One would think this is a basic managerial requirement, but the problem is that many organisations, particularly large ones, tend—instead of giving verbal, personal (there’s that word again) feedback—to simply use impersonal scoresheets. You are a “3 out of 5” on performance, etc. When recognising someone who has contributed something meaningful to the organisation, don’t use impersonal numbers but instead be very specific. Say, “You doing x thing was brilliant. It has helped the company and me immensely. You are a star.”
There is a famous dialogue exchange that is oft-quoted by managing consultants: “What happens if we train our employees and then they leave?” The reply: “What happens if we don’t train them and they stay?” Training your people is one of the best ways to ensure buy-in, for they will feel not only competent and able to handle whatever is thrown at them, but also feel like the company has invested in them.
5) RESPONSIBILITY (DIRECTOR)
We mentioned that each employee should have a clear sense of what their job description entails. What is the remit they have been given? What is expected of them? Well, to go one step further here, their responsibilities should also be clear. If the job description describes what they are doing on a day-to-day basis, their responsibilities should include the people and resources that are at their disposal. So, for a line manager at a call centre, they might have 3 people under their management and a budget of $500 per week to resolve complaints. This is just an example, of course, but you get the idea. People like to know the span of their responsibility. Having responsibility is empowering. Of course, for people who have a low Director motivator, too much responsibility is overwhelming, so you will need to consider carefully who has what degree of responsibility. Putting too much on one person is always a mistake even if that person is highly competent. Ensure each person knows what they have access to, and they will feel like they are in control of their own destiny!
6) MATERIAL REWARDS (BUILDER)
Most companies offer financial bonuses, and most are perplexed when their bonus schemes don’t seem to motivate staff to remain loyal. In fact, most employees tactically wait for their bonus payout and then leave the company anyway! However, this is not to say the idea of material rewards is a bad thing. In certain types of organisation, of course, such as the legal sector or financial sector, lump sums are essential. However, for most organisations, you might get far better results from other physical rewards: e.g. a bottle of wine, a customised mug, a voucher for a relevant shop, etc. These may sound small, but the concrete nature of the reward—being able to hold it in your hands—gives it special power, especially if the employee in question has Builder in their top three motivators. You might use a variety of criteria for distributing these awards. If you are looking for employee retention, then perhaps consider longevity with the organisation? At one year they get a big reward, then at two years another. You might get great benefit running these smaller rewards alongside a traditional bonus scheme. The key takeaway is that cash is not always king.
7) VARIATION FROM ROUTINE (CREATOR)
The Defender motivator, as we have discussed, likes their role to be clearly defined, and likes routine. However, if the organisation only sticks to routine, then this is going to royally hack off anyone with Creator in their top three motivators. Therefore, a balance has to be struck. Giving people a little variation in their routine will keep creative people on their toes, which is where they like to be! For example, if a major issue is looming on the horizon, why not have a creative day out where everyone problem solves? As long as you inform the Defenders ahead of time what is happening, they will be able to go with the flow. And the Creators in your team will be delighted that their imaginative efforts are being called upon.
8) CUSTOMISATION (SPIRIT)
Spirits love independence, and therefore the worst thing you can do is ask them to be homogenous. So many organisations clamp down on employees customising their desks and workspaces, or signing off emails in a quirk manner, or dressing in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Doing this is going to seriously demotivate your staff, and especially the Spirit motivators among them, who like to express themselves. Allowing people small freedoms is an act of charity that will infinitely endear you to them. If you give nothing, then why should they give you their time? Relax the restrictions you place on people in areas that don’t meaningfully impact on the business, and you will find energy levels and commitment rising.
9) COMMUNICATION OF MISSION
Last but by no means least, we come to the communication of the organisational mission. We talked about clear communication of job roles, which is semi-unique to each individual. But we also need to make sure that the company’s mission is clearly communicated to every single person in the organisation no matter their role. This is important for many reasons. Firstly, those with a high Searcher motivator want to know that they are making a difference. They want to know what cause they are fighting for, what Simon Sinek called the “Why”. Secondly, when people are aware of the company mission, they see beyond the daily grind. Now, I need to take a step back here, because naturally having a mission that excites employees necessitates upper management themselves seeing beyond such crude objectives as “selling products”. Why sell these products? What does one hope to accomplish? To revolutionise an industry? To make people’s lives better or easier? Find the organisation’s true mission and make sure every person, from janitor to CEO, knows what it is!
Hopefully, these nine tips have given you some fuel to start tackling the all-important issue of employee retention and long-term sustained commitment. As you can see, by identifying and meeting the motivators of your staff, you can create a work environment that is rewarding, nurturing, and exciting. The great news is that this isn’t at the expense of profit, and in fact will multiply your profits as productivity increases and overheads diminish from reduced turnover rates.
Find out more about the nine-motivators, and how you can discover what specifically motivates your employees, by going to www.motivationalmaps.com or contact one of our expert Motivational Maps Practitioners and also consider reading Mapping Motivation.